Posted: Monday, August 23rd 2010 at 1:42pm
Dream looking to regain early season momentum
By The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) -- The Dream raced to a 6-0 start and were in first place in the Eastern Conference late in the season - now Atlanta is hoping to regain that momentum for the playoffs.
Atlanta staggered down the stretch, going 1-6 finish to the regular season as opponents stalled the team's uptempo attack.
The Dream has to get its running game rolling again to challenge the top-seeded Washington Mystics in the Eastern Conference semifinals. That starts with aggressive defense.
"What ignites us is our defense on steals and we're not getting very many steals or much pressure right now," coach Marynell Meadors said. "We have to get some easy lay-ups like we did early in the season."
The Dream has struggled in its half-court offense. The team's youth was an asset in a running game, but at a slower pace the lack of experience is a disadvantage.
"Teams know that we like to run and they are doing their best to take that away from us," Meadors said. "If we have to play in the half court, we have to do a better job of execution and get good shots."
Meadors said the key was making the playoffs, even as the No. 4 seed.
"I'm proud of our team for getting to the playoffs," Meadors said. "Whether we limped in or knocked the doors down, we're there."
The Mystics (22-12) clinched the No. 1 seed with a 90-81 victory over the fourth-place Dream (19-15) in Atlanta on Sunday. Washington won the final three games of the regular-season series after an opening loss.
The best-of-three playoff series begins Wednesday in Washington and then moves to Atlanta for the second game on Friday. A third game, if necessary, would be played in Washington on Sunday.
The Mystics led by as many as 24 points in the regular-season finale, but Washington coach Julie Plank expects Atlanta will be a different team during the postseason.
"They had a terrific first part of the season and they're a dangerous team," Plank said. "We know that they're not done fighting."
While Atlanta slumped at the end of the season, Washington was hot. The Mystics closed with six straight victories and won nine of their final 11 games.
It was the first time in franchise history that the Mystics had finished atop the Eastern Conference. Washington lost as a third seed in the first round a year ago and the Dream fell as a fourth seed.
"Starting out at home is very advantageous," said Washington's Monique Currie, who averaged 14.1 points this season. "We had a little slump after the All-Star Game, but we kept working and things are really clicking now."
Angel McCoughtry leads Atlanta with her average of 21.1 points per game, but she says defense is most important in the playoffs.
"It's about defending and getting the steals," McCoughtry said. "But also on the missed shots we have to rebound, run the floor and get out. I don't think we have been spreading the floor as well as we could be."
Washington grabbed the No. 1 seed despite losing four-time WNBA all-star Alana Beard to an ankle injury before the season. Atlanta was hurt down the stretch by the absence of Kelly Miller, who suffered a high ankle sprain.
Without the veteran point guard, twin Coco Miller had to play out of position while sharing time with Shalee Lehning.
"We don't know how long Kelly will be out," Meadors said. "But I don't expect her to play the first game against Washington."
"We are in the playoffs and that was our main goal," Lehning said. "So what happened, happened and we have to move on. It's a whole new season."
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